Dictionary of Superstitions

black-cat-featuredI knew my father-in-law wasn't well. I was outside getting some air when this big black crow landed on the fence about 15 feet away from me and was giving me the oddest look. I didn't think much about it. But the next day, when I was outside, the crow was back. On the third day the crow once again assumed its position on the fence; sitting exactly the same place on the fence it did the last two days. It didn't return the fourth day. We got a phone call that my father-in-law had passed away.

Are crows really a harbinger of death? There are a lot of superstitions based on crows with their ominous presence. Some even believe that they were a familiar to witches, but I find this all a bit ludicrous. One doesn't have to believe in these things if they don't want to.

Still, as a child, I recall how superstitious my father was. We were never allowed to walk underneath a ladder, and never allowed to put a rocking chair into motion without someone sitting in it. One time my brother and I were given some flowers from a funeral, but my father wouldn't allow them inside the house.

Our culture seems to be rife with superstition. Most of us will know of:

  • Friday the thirteenth
  • a rabbit's foot
  • horseshoe
  • end of a rainbow
  • chicken wishbone
  • itchy palms
  • beginner's luck
  • dropped dishcloth

David Pickering it the author of Dictionary of Superstitions. It is a comprehensive and up-to-date guide to the superstitions, old and new, of the English-speaking world, complete with their origins, meanings and variant forms. It includes just about everything from touching wood, crossing fingers and identifying future lovers to folk remedies, spells and modern beliefs relating to the lottery, the computer and the mobile phone. A first-class source book for the historian, folklorist and casual reader alike, it also offers antidotes to some of the most feared taboos. What should you do to avoid seven years' bad luck if you break a mirror? How can you walk safely under a ladder? Which is the correct end to crack open a boiled egg? This book has all the answers.

The Kindle version of the book is being offered for free today as part of an Amazon promotion, so this makes today... your lucky day! It's about 500 pages long, but it's easy to look up superstitions as they are all listed in alphabetical order.

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